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What’s Your Story?


Whether you’re a business person selling a product or service or an individual in job search mode marketing YOU Inc., storytelling can become a skill that helps differentiate you from the competition.

I’m one of those people who was immobilized by the thought of public speaking to more than a dozen people at a time let alone getting up and actually doing it.  Small group discussions or one-on-one coaching are much more my comfort zone!

But being self employed involves speaking to larger groups which meant I had to find a solution.  The goods news is:  there are lots of resources from working with a coach (this appeals to people who prefer to work independently) to joining a group (e.g. Dale Carnegie, Improv, Toastmasters) to DIY (reading, etc.).

The two techniques which have helped me most are:

  • Focus on 90% preparation (be passionate your topic) and 10% delievery (“package” and “market” your message to your target audience)
  • Tell a story rather than  lead people through an academic or intellectual exercise

Ten years ago business fables were all the rage:  Who Moved My Cheese (Spencer Johnson), Fish:  a remarkable way to boost morale and improve results (Stephen C. Lunden), The Monk to Sold his Ferrari:  a fable about fulfilling your dreams & reaching your destiny (Robin S. Sharma)…

Today business reality shows like The Apprentice, Dragon’s Den, Shark Tank have engaged a wide range of people.

Why?  Regardless of the medium, readers and viewers engage more when things don’t go as planned.  What were the struggles?  What was the outcome, positive or not so much?  That’s not to say we’ve become cynical and pessimistic;  it’s just that most of us have figured out rose-coloured have more sizzle than substance!

So…how would you go about telling your story?

Arlene Dickinson’s book Persuasion:  a new approach to changing minds says:  connecting (not conning) is the way to cultive authenticity, honesty and reciprocity.

Brett Wilson’s book Redefining Success:  still making mistakes talks about seeing opportunities rather than problems and taking risks.

Simon Sinek’s The Golden Circle video www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2SEPoQEgqA has “codified the world’s simplest idea”.  His premise is:  while most people can you what they do and some can tell you how they do it, few can articulate why they do what they do.  His recommendation is to start from the inside out:  start with why (what’s your purpose? what do you believe?) then move to the how (what’s your unique value proposition?) and finally to the what (what are your products and services?)

The Pathfinder Career System, the career assessment I facilitate, is based on awareness of self and others.  Many people have never stepped back to better understand who they are and what they do best every day.

All of these resources encourage us to show vulnerability in telling our stories, to talk about what didn’t go as well as planned, not just showcase more obvious successes.

Bill Moyers www.billmoyers.com offers an excellent model to frame your story:

  • Challenge:  What was the specific challenge you faced? Why did you feel it was a challenge?  What was so challenging about?  Why was it your challenge?
  • Choice:  What specific choice did you make?  Why did you make that choice?  Where did you get the courage and hope (or not)?  How did it feel?
  • Outcome:  What happened as a result of your choice?  How did it feel?  What did it teach you?  What do you want us to feel?  What do you want to teach us?

It’s much like the STARs that candidates may prepare for behaviourally based interviews

  • What Situation or Task did you face?
  • What Actions did you take?
  • What Results did you achieve?  Don’t forget to include how you felt!

So try ditching the PowerPoint and Prezi and speaking from the heart!  People want to hear your story, connect with you, feel emotion  and learn from you.  Social Media helps you tell your story in a number of compelling ways.